- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tackling an issue sure to rouse sports fans, lawmakers on Capitol Hill pressed college football officials Friday to switch to a playoff, with one Texas Republican calling the current “Bowl Championship Series” as unworkable as communism and saying it should be labeled “BS,” not “BCS.”

John Swofford, the coordinator of the BCS, rejected the idea of a playoff, arguing it would threaten the existence of long-established bowl games such as the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl.

Sponsorships and TV revenue that now go toward bowl games would instead be spent on playoff games, “meaning that it will be very difficult for any bowl, including the current BCS bowls … to survive,” Mr. Swofford said.

But Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, who has introduced legislation that would prevent the National Collegiate Athletic Association from labeling a game a national championship unless it is the outcome of a playoff system, said efforts to tinker with the BCS were bound to fail.

“It’s like communism,” he said at House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. “You can’t fix it.”

Mr. Barton, the ranking Republican on the panel, quipped that the BCS should drop the “C” from its name because it doesn’t represent a true championship.

“Call it the ‘BS’ system,” he said to laughter.

Under the BCS, some college athletic conferences get automatic bids to participate while others do not. Conferences that get an automatic bid - the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Big East, the Big 12, the Big Ten, the Pac-10 and the Southeastern Conference - get about $18 million each, far more than schools not in the favored leagues. Mr. Swofford is also commissioner of the ACC.

“How is this fair?” asked subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, who co-sponsored Mr. Barton’s bill. “How can we justify this system?”

Craig Thompson, commissioner of the Mountain West Conference (MWC), which does not get an automatic bid, called the money distribution system “grossly inequitable.”

The MWC has hired a Washington firm to lobby Congress for changes to the BCS, which currently features a championship game between the two top teams in the BCS standings, based on two polls and six computer ratings.

The MWC proposes, among others things, scrapping the BCS standings and creating a 12-member committee to pick which teams receive at-large bids, and to select and seed the eight teams chosen for the playoff. The BCS has previously discussed - and dismissed - the idea of a selection committee.

Gene Bleymaier, athletic director at Idaho’s Boise State University, noted that his school’s football team went undefeated several times, yet never got a chance to play for the national championship under the BCS.

“The BCS system not only restricts access but essentially precludes schools from playing in the national championship,” he said.

Asked by Mr. Rush whether Congress should intervene, Mr. Bleymaier responded, “The only way this is going to change is with help from the outside.”

The BCS has come under attack from several politicians. Last November, as president-elect, Barack Obama told “60 Minutes” he would prefer an eight-team playoff system.

“I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this,” he said. “So I’m going to throw my weight around a little bit.”

In the Senate, Utah Republican Orrin G. Hatch has put the BCS on the agenda for the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee this year, and Utah’s attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, is investigating whether the BCS violates federal antitrust laws.

University of Utah fans were incensed when the school was bypassed for the national championship despite going undefeated in the regular season. This year’s title game pitted top-ranked Florida (12-1) against No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1); Florida won 24-14.

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